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The connection between natural light and mental health at home

Natural light and mental health

The home is where you relax, make meals, and sleep. It’s your go-to zone when the outside world gets a bit too much and you want a sanctuary at home. To help it be a place that’s a positive one for your mind, an important consideration is the amount of direct light that comes in through windows and skylights. That’s something to consider given the relationship between natural light and mental health.

This post is sponsored by Three Countries, specializing in high performance windows, doors, and conservatories for more than a decade.

There’s Vitamin D too

The natural sunlight streams through windows, including in my home office and big windows in the living room where we watch TV. That’s great for getting me – and you, in your house! – enough Vitamin D.

While ultraviolet (UV) in sunlight gets a lot of flack, and I get it given I’ve had skin cancer, UV light actually has benefits, namely that it absorbs through the skin, generating Vitamin D.

In other words, the sun is a natural source of Vitamin D for the body. And it’s an important vitamin, no doubt about it.

For example, you need Vitamin D to effectively absorb calcium. Unfortunately if you don’t get adequate sun time, you could be at risk for conditions that come from deficiciencies in calcium, including osteoporosis.

That’s all the more reason to welcome sunlight into your home with open curtains and more windows, if you don’t have many in your residence. Look for window special offers to save money on renovations.

Artificial light vs natural light

Specifically, this post is focusing on natural light, which comes from the sun. As the name suggests, it’s found in nature, beautiful nature!

It is dynamic, meaning it changes with the time of day. Another characteristic is full spectrum; this light has all of the colors of the rainbow.

That’s as opposed to artificial light at home that’s from LEDs or other bulbs. It might even be light from an electronic device. Most artificial lights don’t have all of the spectrum colors.

Obviously there are benefits of both types of lighting in the home. For example, you can control artificial light, turning it off or on as you desire, whereas the sun will go down in the evening, something you cannot stop.

As for natural light, a major advantage is that broad spectrum of color mentioned earlier. Not only for aesthetically pleasing reasons either!

Sunlight actually passes through a lot of layers during the day, which scatters the light and encourages more red and orange hues. Meanwhile, most artificial light has blues and yellows, with little red, excluding incandescents.

Would it surprise you to learn that those colors can affect your mental health?

Natural light and mental health: Colors matter

While you’ve likely noticed that you feel good in sunlight, you might not have thought about why exactly that is. Yup, it’s the rainbow thing again!

When talking color, it’s these specific characteristics of natural light that are the focus:

  • Brightness – How bright the color is
  • Saturation – Color intensity
  • Hue – The shade

The brightness of natural light, with the reds spoken of earlier, can affect your wellbeing for the better. It can have a positive affect on your health and sleep quality.

Studies have shown that not getting enough sunlight in winter months can actually contribute to symptoms of depression and SAD or Seasonal Affect Disorder. To help improve the condition, a common treatment is exposure to light that’s a wide variety of colors. The goal of those artificial lights is to trick the mind into thinking it’s getting sunlight.

A few symptoms of SAD are:

The feel-good light: Serotonin and you

Natural light and mental health are also a positive combination because of the serotonin factor. More time in the sun naturally enhances the mind’s production of this particular hormone. This elevated level can benefit mood and help you focus. Three cheers for sunlight!

So, how exactly does this all happen? When bright light shines in the eyes, the photoreceptors there send messages to the brain. Specifically to the areas that regulate seratonin for the body. As seratonin regulates sleep and hunger levels, among other functions, getting enough of it is important.

With seratonin through natural light streaming into your home via windows, research shows that you’re more likely to feel happy, have more energy, and be alert, explains Shape.com. As for how long to expose yourself to sunlight, don’t overdo it please as I don’t want you getting a burn or skin diseases.

About 10-15 minutes of sun middle of day is enough to produce Vitamin D, explains Shape. Without getting enough seratonin though you might find yourself feeling asleep in daylight hours, awake at night, and hungry more than usual.

Final words on natural light and mental health

So now it’s clear that the sun exposure has lots of benefits when in small quantities. The relationships between Vitamin D, seratonin, and the human body are ones to understand to help you feel at your best.

18 thoughts on “The connection between natural light and mental health at home”

  1. Brilliant post, Christy! 🧡 I can vouch for the validity of this article and your research 100%. When I have been indoors for too long a period of time without sufficient natural light, my serotonin levels do drop dramatically and boy do I notice the difference! Just a little garden time or a quick walk outdoors and there is a marked improvement in my mood. (Odd since I’m naturally a night owl)

    Vitamin D and serotonin do so much more for us than we could ever imagine. Isn’t it amazing how our bodies are so perfectly balanced that any one hormone (or nutrient) being off causes us to feel lethargic or just plain crazy?

    Thanks for sharing this my friend! :) Great as always!

    1. Holly, your Twitter share was an amazing thing to read and now I see this comment here, wow. Your appreciation lights up my life and I’m so pleased we’ve connected. I am also happy to hear that you know one way to improve your mood is to step outside for a walk – sun + movement = better mind and body!! Sending much love

    2. Aw Christy! I am so grateful we have connected as well. Friendship and support can be so very healing. You are most welcome for the social share. I try to do it as often as possible. We blog business owners need each other :) Lots of love right back to you! Praying your day is wonderful and bright! ♥

  2. Very true, Christy! My daughter works a third-shift job, and a few months after beginning it she had to visit the doctor with symptoms of chronic low energy and mood swings which proved to be from lack of sunlight. Her doctor recommended she take a large daily dosage of vitamin D, which does seem to help, but she still tries to get outside and soak up some rays as often as possible to make up for needing to sleep during the day.

    1. Oh the night shifts! I did those for a while and they’re tough for not only missing out on daylight but also social interactions. I’m pleased she saw the doctor for help – and also that the Dr. suggested a natural treatment! xo

  3. Good article, Christy :-)
    By personal experience, I need at least a half hour of sunlight daily. Less make my mood go down very fast. It doesn’t need to be in the midday in the summer, but a walk in the sun keeps away the depression.

  4. petespringerauthor

    Right on the money, Christy! Nothing better than a walk in the sunlight at the end of the day with a friend to share a laugh.

  5. As fall is around the corner, this hits home. I went and read up about SAD last year and realized how important natural light is. Thank you for sharing this – timely reminder.

  6. What a fascinating article about the effect of natural light on mental health. As a native of Colorado, where there are several sunny days, I can tell the difference in my mood if we get more than a couple of days of cloudy weather.

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